NEW ORLEANS, La. - The New Orleans community remembers Fats Domino as a talented musician, someone who was loved by all. He was a well-known band leader, singer, songwriter and piano player. Some say his death marks the end of an era.
“He represents, more than anyone else, an era of New Orleans music history," said funk and R&B musician, Jon Cleary. "New Orleans changed the way people played music all over the world, popular music.”
In the music world Fats Domino is a legend.
“He set the foundation for a lot of young musicians today to stay steady, stay straight and focus," said Erroll Emak McKenith.
For Cleary, Fats was someone who gave music life.
“What he did, he did really well," Cleary said. “His name is synonymous purely with music and music that makes you feel good.”
Cleary was about 5 years old and living more then 4,500 miles from New Orleans when he first saw Fats play.
“I was thinking back to a very vivid memory of being a child in England, that’s where I grew up, in the countryside and playing with toys and there’s a TV on in the corner," he said. "There was a movie playing, I think, 'The Girl Can’t Help It,' and Fats Domino came on and I was mesmerized. My mother came in the room and I said, 'Look mom, check this out!' And she said 'That's Fats Domino from New Orleans' and that just stuck in my head.”
Fats music, he says, was one of a kind. He inspired countless artists, including Cleary.
“His style could only come out of New Orleans and the best things he’s known for are the triplet things," he said as he played on the piano.
With 35 records that made the U.S. Billboard Top 40, Fats' music will always live on. However for Cleary, it was the moment he met this music icon, that he says he'll always hold close.
“At the time I met him sadly his memory wasn’t as good as it once was in years previous and so through the fog the one thing that was really clear was the music," he said. "I started tinkling some notes quietly in the background. And the next he was standing beside the piano checking it out and listening. He then bent over and started playing a couple of notes so I scooted over and he sat down and next thing I know I’m boogie woogying with Fats Domino. He was unique really, and there’s not going to be anybody like him ever again.”
Cleary also says he hopes he's here in New Orleans if and when a Second Line is planned. That way, he says, everyone can come out and show the world just how much Fats meant to our city and to this area.